Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3 Multi Tester Review: Going Ultra Big and Cush! 15 Comparisons

Article by Jeff Beck, Jeff Valliere, Alex Tilsley, Mike Postaski, and Sam Winebaum 

Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3 ($150)


Jeff B: The Ultraventure has been Topo’s most cushioned trail shoe since its introduction two models ago, but it’s lagged behind the other players in the same space when it comes to overall cushioning. With the Ultraventure 3, Topo is no longer lagging behind, with an extra 5mm added to the heel and forefoot of a new “lighter, softer, more responsive” Zip Foam 2 . But will adding half a centimeter underfoot make it a serious contender, or just add a little more squish to the dynamic?

Alex: Since testing the Topo Trailventure WP2 mid height boot earlier this year, I have often found myself wishing for a trail runner version of the Trailventure for runs or lighter hikes. Enter the Ultraventure. Would it have the same balance of cush but responsive, with a secure foot hold and a wide toe box? Only one way to find out! 


Another Topo going in 2022 from firm, boring and conservative to flashy, liviler, softer and fast in 2022: Sam/Jeff V/Jeff B/Mike P

Any surface cruiser par excellence: broad, soft and smooth flowing over moderate terrain Sam/Jeff V/Jeff B/Alex/Mike P

5mm more cushion stack to 35/30 & lighter at barely over 10 oz. what’s not to like: Sam/Jeff V/Jeff B/Mike P

Great light hiker or walking shoe, especially if you value a broad comfortable toe box Sam

Potential tru hiking option Sam

Excellent heel and midfoot hold with a super roomy broad toe box (if you need it) Sam/Jeff B

Very effective rocker plus flex geometry Sam/Mike P

Surprisingly capable in moderate(+) terrain Mike P


Feels unstable over technical terrain: Alex/Jeff V/Sam/Jeff B

Broad and roomy toe box and front fit can reach its limits on more technical terrain taken fast, does not quite keep up with stable underfoot platform in terms of security: Sam/Jeff V/Jeff B/Alex/Mike P

Laces are much too long. Jeff V

Traction, while not intended for difficult terrain, lugs could be a bit more sharp and perhaps a stickier compound.  Jeff V


Approx. Weight: men's 10.02 oz  / g (US9) 

  Samples: men’s 9.77 oz  / 277 g US8.5, 10.6 oz  / 302 g US10, 10.9 oz / 309g 10.5US

Stack Height: men’s 35 mm heel / 30 mm forefoot :: women’s  mm heel / mm forefoot

(5mm more stack height than v2)

Available Nov. 2022, $150

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Alex: Holy cushion, batman! Stepping into these, I was excited. Lately I have found myself without a go-to trail run and hiking shoe. I loved hiking in the Trailventure WP 2 this winter, but they’re a bit too much for summer hikes, and certainly not built for running. But every time I go to the woods, I find myself wishing I had a running shoes version of the Trailventures. And here we are! 

The fit is classic Topo – wide at the forefoot but secure through the midfoot and heel. The Ultraventure 3 felt perhaps a tiny bit tighter around my wide forefoot than the Trailventure WP 2, but nothing concerning. In my usual women’s 6.5 the size was just right, the lacing easy, and the tongue and heel unintrusive. My only concern was the stiffness of the upper. Immediately, I felt a little creasing and pressure on my big toe, and wondered what this would feel like on the run. 

The creasing didn’t turn out to be a problem, but the upper does have some limitations. Topo says the Ultraventure 3 is for light to moderate terrain, and that becomes obvious as soon as you hit anything more technical. With no overlays and a generally soft and light upper (a good thing!), I found my foot slipping side to side if I hit rocks or off-camber terrain. The lightness of the upper means it drains well (I was knee deep in a stream and the shoes still dried within minutes), but it’s really not secure enough for technical runs or off-trail adventures. 

Jeff B: I had the same response as Alex - they finally made a shoe worthy of the word ultra. Initial step in feels as good as any Topo ever has, and the fit is as good as Topo has been. Not only true-to-size, but room where you want it and none where you don’t need it.

Topo uppers over the last few years have been great, and this doesn’t break that streak. Breathable and comfortable with good support, as a trail cruiser, you don’t need anything more. 

Unfortunately, runners who want to take the Ultraventure 3 onto more technical terrain are going to be severely underwhelmed. It’s not hard to see, there isn’t much in the way of reinforced overlays that tend to give extra support when the trail turns nasty, but I’m not going to knock it too hard because this shoe really isn’t meant for technical terrain. Long miles on relatively tame trails are where this shoe shines, and the upper is just the start of that.

The gusseted tongue (attached at the top but not extending to the midsole)  isn’t going anywhere (the loops near the top of the tongue keep it even more planted than the gusseting), and the heel counter exists, but isn’t obtrusive. The toe bumper provides decent protection, but the spacing of the toebox makes it so you don’t really notice it. Not that it’s less effective than others, it just doesn’t announce its presence very well - not that I’m complaining as the resident toebox snob around here. I don't think it'd be crazy to see this upper at home on a daily trainer road shoe. And I’d be all for it, it’s a very comfortable upper.

Broad and easy fitting upfront with a stout toe bumper,  the upper is secure and appropriately snug at the midfoot with a top attached gusset tongue and thin midfoot underlays and a well locked heel. 

As per usual the sockliner is from Ortholite (folded back to show the underlays) and here it is the X-25 Hybrid which has 5% recycled rubber and 15% foam scrap (color dots above)  in its make up. Further the upper polyester contains the equivalent of 3 plastic bottles of recycled content or 30% recycled content. All good but we are increasingly seeing higher percentages of recycled content in 2022 running shoes.

Ultraventure’s upper does what it has to try to balance a very broad toe box with sufficient hold and security for trail run trail use.  It almost gets there but doesn’t quite as there is some front foot movement as things get off camber and the rocks pointy. 

Instead, it leans towards a fit ideal for moderate trail terrain and roads taken at any pace and comfort for many hours on trail or road. What a great walking/ travel shoe it makes too!

As things got more technical and I was at a hiking pace the fit was near ideal with welcome toe box room and just enough hold. I do think the Ultraventure 3 upper security could be improved by dialing that toe box down a bit in breadth of stiffening the mesh a touch.

I would also highlight that it includes a front gaiter attachment ring and slots for the hooks of Topo’s excellent Trail Running Performance Gaiter

Jeff V:  My first impressions of the UV 3 upper are quite positive, as the UV 3 looks high quality, maximally cushioned and well constructed.  Fit is true to size, though the toe box is roomy, with a secure midfoot and heel counter.  Comfort of the upper is exceptional, striking a very good balance of room to stretch out with foothold, but definitely leaning more on the side of comfort than it does security.  

While not necessarily intended for technical trails, even with my slim foot, I have been able to negotiate them well enough, though with some caution and at slower speeds.  If I try to move fast in technical terrain, steep, off camber, etc.,  I quickly reach the limits of the UV 3.  That however is not really a knock, as they are designed for longer distances on less technical terrain than I frequent.  The sweet spot for the UV 3 is less technical trails, less steep and long distances at just about any pace.  If used as intended, I find the foothold and comfort to be in really good balance.

Mike P: Topo is clearly taking the Ultraventure in a new direction with this version. Huge stack, plus limited outsole (in terms of traction), clearly sets expectations for an all day (and all night) easy-moderate trails cruiser. In fact, they mention that almost word for word in their spec materials. That being said, expectations should be set for quite a different experience than previous iterations.

Everyone has covered the details so I’ll stick with the most striking impressions for me. Stack height - a massive increase in volume underfoot puts them in line with the biggest trail stacks out there right now. For me the stack is most noticeable under the forefoot - this is the first Topo trail shoe for me that feels hugely cushioned up front. My biggest gripe with Ultraventure 1 and MTN Racer 1 & 2 was that they tended to feel a bit thin under the ball of the foot, especially when the Zipfoam was broken in. No such issue here. I tried them on A/B against all of my biggest stacked trail shoes, and the UV3 doesn’t sacrifice cushion to any of them. 

The other noticeable aspect for me was the broader toebox - similar to the Topo Pursuit which I recently tested (RTR Review). It seems to me like Topo is going a bit wider up front with their big stack cruisers. Perhaps they’ll maintain a more Topo-traditional “streamlined wide” whenever the next MTN Racer is released?


Sam: The midsole is Topo new Zip Foam 2. It is considerably softer and more energetic than Zip Foam 1, a foam I found quite unremarkable.  With Zip Foam 2 here, and the PEBA/EVA combination in the road Specter (RTR Review) which shares a 35/30 stack height and similar geometry, Topo now clearly offers modern, fun, softer and more energetic midsoles.

The wide front platform allows for a broad contact on the ground and very decent stability. Unfortunately as the technicality of trails or pace increases the toe box area doesn’t quite keep up with the platform for my narrower to medium feet with foot motion at the front of the shoe leading to occasional instability.

The midsole is forgiving and energetic with plenty of rolling action to toe off particularly felt on uphills with the broad front duck foot contact with the ground, the big central rubber area providing some responsive propulsion and the long quite easy flex. 

The midsole foam and outsole is more than adequately protective for moderate terrain taken at moderate paces as we do not have a rock plate here. I found the front cushion deeper and more rebounding than the rear where, comparatively, the feel is firmer and the heel lower feeling given the 5mm drop and extensive rear thick rear rubber coverage. 

Jeff B: I can’t disagree with anything Sam has said. Zip Foam 2 is much more impressive than its predecessor, being both softer and more energetic. It’s a great modern midsole, with a very accommodating shape (as per Topo tradition), and I’m really happy with how much of the midsole Topo included. Having this much stack height of really good midsole material is a winning combination. I wouldn’t hate a rock plate (heavier runners land harder than our more svelte counterparts) but the protection is more than ample for the type of running the shoe is designed for.

Jeff V:  Sam sums up the Zip Foam 2 midsole quite well and I find it to be much more lively and plush cushioned than its predecessor.  Performance is excellent be it at slower speeds like hiking or recovery pace, or when pushing the pace a bit more, the UV 3 can hold its own provided the terrain is not too technical, though is certainly not a speedster.  Stability and predictability are also very good for their intended purpose and I have had no problems with protection even when on rocky trails, as even without a plate, there is plenty of substance underfoot to protect from any jabs or discomfort.  The Zip Foam 2 midsole is very plush and comfortable, ideal for full days on your feet and ultra distance races.

Alex: As the others say, Zip Foam 2 is fun. It’s plush but still has some responsiveness. And even with the high stack height, the midsole flexes just enough at the forefoot for you to get a natural stride. Because of the high stack height and the less secure upper, I did find I was occasionally twisting my ankle or falling off the midsole – but only on rough terrain. On smooth dirt roads, I could run or walk in this shoe all day.

Mike P: Agree with my companions here - next gen Zipfoam is clearly more energetic, resilient, and also feels lighter and less dense. The feel of the foam is noticeably different from the duller, denser feel of Zip Foam 1. I’ve tested their recently released, big stack (28/28mm) Pursuit with Zip Foam 1, and the feel of foam is noticeably different. More rebound, and less sinking into the foam. 

Topo has also done well here to work in a big toe rocker up front - aided by a distinctive flex groove in the outsole between the ball of the foot and the toes. It smooths out the ride and keeps up a forward rolling momentum. There’s also a large gap between the front and rear outsole sections which also helps the shoe feel as flexible as it can be with such a big stack. Clearly not an agile-feeling shoe, but enough flex to avoid any “big stack sluggishness”.

I really enjoy the feel of the midsole on the dry singletrack we have here in Boise. It’s neither uncomfortably soft nor firm/heavy. It hits the sweet spot for all distance/duration training runs in its advertised light to moderate target terrain. It’s a great shoe for probably 80% of my trail running mileage .


Sam: The outsole is Vibram XS Trek EVO with 3.5mm lugs on a 1.5mm base. XS Trek rubber is said to be longer lasting than MegaGrip on firmer surfaces but does not have quite the wet grip adhesion. 

The outsole’s low flat widely spaced lugs have  a design I think are best tailored for dry firmer trails, dirt roads, and pavement. Grip on sand and gravel over hard surfaces including very steep ones is excellent from the broad front platform. Unfortunately, I have not been able to test on wet rock or mud as of yet. I suspect it is not ideal on mud but the broadly spaced lugs should allow good shedding. The outsole is excellent on pavement, not in the way quiet and not noticed.

Jeff B: Agreed, this outsole is just one more way the shoe telegraphs its intended use - lots of miles on relatively tame trails. The outsole design seems to be more tame than previous Ultraventures (or really any Topo trail shoe, they’ve used an identical, or nearly identical, outsole on their trail shoes for the last few years - I’m not complaining, it’s a versatile and solid outsole design), though I did experience a bit of mud during one of my runs, and didn’t slip too much. To Sam’s point, the wide spaced lugs did allow the mud to shed pretty easily. The mud grip was passable, if I knew it’d be raining during a run I’d likely opt for a different shoe.

Jeff V:  The lugs are broad, shallow and spaced far apart, which is a clear indicator that the UV 3 is intended for more moderate terrain.  I was a bit skeptical of this at first, but was overall surprised at how well they held in dry conditions, even when running steeper, more technical and loose off trail.  I in fact pushed them a bit running down a very mixed, steep, technical social trail type of route and was surprised how well they held, yet once I got to a real trail, I actually took a spill on a gravelly corner.  I have not had the opportunity to test extensively in wet conditions, but what little I did gave me a bit of hesitation, so I will need to follow up later if I get out in wet conditions.  I guess I would sum up wet traction as average.

Alex: The outsole I think telegraphs what this shoe is meant for – long runs on relatively tame terrain. Its performance limitations are the same as the upper: it’s totally fine, even great, until you get on rough terrain. Admittedly, it wasn’t the outsole that let me down on rougher terrain as much as the upper/foot hold, but you can see from the lug size and placement that this is probably not the shoe you want for descending wet scree fields. The upside of the relatively light traction is that the UV3 works great as a road shoe. I’ve taken it out on days when I was going to do a mix of paved and dirt roads, and on paved roads I would swear this is a road shoe, the lugs are so unnoticeable. It’s a great option if your run to the trail involves some sidewalks!

Mike P: Agree with Alex in that the outsole tips the Ultraventure 3’s hand. I was actually taken aback seeing pictures of the outsole before we received our test pairs. But it is what it is - Topo is clearly making an effort to provide some more distinction between their trail offerings. The outsole works perfectly fine in light-moderate terrain. I have not had the chance to test them in truly wet or muddy conditions, but honestly I’d definitely choose a shoe with better traction in those scenarios, so it’s a moot point for me. 

The XS Trek rubber, shallower lugs, and lesser coverage must shave quite a bit of weight. If you have any issue with the outsole, keep in mind the other side of the coin - 10.7 oz in my US 10 is pretty light for a huge 35/30mm stack. The weight savings have to come from somewhere and rubber is the heaviest component of a shoe, and besides, the outsole does what it says it’s going to do. 



Sam: The ride is what I would call “all purpose” leaning towards dry dirt, gravel, trails with lower technicality, dirt roads and pavement.  The combination of rocker and flex leads to a smooth flowing ride with a noticed easy transition off the heel, even with the 5mm drop and  at slower paces. 

The front part of the shoe (much as in the road Specter) provides a broad underfoot platform and an easy and stable toe off, particularly on uphills and smoother surfaces. As trails get technical on the run (but not at hiking paces) the broad upper fit starts to get shakier despite the solid toe bumper in the mix and more than adequate mesh upper.  I have trail run smooth and moderately technical pointy rock trails, hiked and road run in them and the only place they were not superb was at faster paces on the more technical trails. 

On the road, the ride is decisive with the outsole providing considerable final firmer response and pop. Yes, the copious Vibram is a bit noisy but in combination with the now softer Zip Foam it keeps things moving snappy and quick even with the broad front of the shoe.

Jeff B: I’ll go one further - this shoe works really well on the road too. Part of the outsole getting a little more tame means you don’t have any odd geometry on the pavement, making it a great road-to-trail-back-to-road shoes. There’s plenty of cushioning to dull out the road, and they run as good, if not better, on solid surfaces.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Sam’s thorough analysis, as well as Jeff B’s road praises.  The ride is very smooth and forgiving, quite versatile and ideal for door to dirt roads to trails.  I appreciate the steady and predictable ride, deep plush cushion and generously comfortable fit , best suited for non technical, all day cruising.  Road performance is very good and is almost indiscernible from your average dedicated road shoe.

Alex: Echoing the others here, but I will admit I have taken the UV3 out for pure road runs. And it’s great. It is soft, the foot hold feels secure as long as you’re not landing on technical, off-camber terrain, there’s still some flex and some pop, and it really feels like you could go all day. Honestly might be my new long run shoe. 

Mike P: For me, as a forefoot striker, one of the calling cards of a Topo shoe is their well-balanced nature. With their typical wider toebox and narrower heel platform, the mass of the shoe is spread out more evenly underfoot, even when the heel stack is higher. 

I love me a well-balanced ride, and the Ultraventure 3 fits the bill.. The stack is huge - noticeably huge when standing A/B with other big stack trail shoes (see comps below). But the UV3 maintains a somewhat narrower heel platform in comparision to most other big stack shoes. With the broader forefoot landing area, you don’t need to rely on a super wide platform under the rear ⅔’s of the shoe for stabilization. This really works well for my running stride and style.

Perhaps due to my style and personal preferences, I found the Ultraventure quite capable in moderate (+) to somewhat technical terrain. Of course they’re not the most agile and stable ride the more technical it gets, but on the context of an all-day outing, you’d probably be surprised how well they will perform. 

I actually put them in a drop bag as a reserve shoe at IMTUF 100M last month - a very rugged mountain ultra. My thought process was that if I needed to switch, I’d want the cushion, and at that stage of the race, they’d be able to handle whatever speed I could muster through truly technical sections anyway. My 1-2 shoe pick was Tecton X / Ultraventure 3, so I think that’s saying something.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff B: The Ultraventure 3 is a big step up for Topo trail shoes . Until now they really didn’t have an all-day cushion shoe, and between the higher stack and the new midsole, they absolutely have that shoe. The upper and outsole both keep it from doing well on technical terrain, but it seems like that’s not what this shoe is meant for. The upper is top notch, easily among the best attached to any running shoe right now. It may sound reductive to say there’s a new king of tame trails, but that’s not meant to be an insult, it truly is one of the best options on the market for less rocky rails.

Jeff B’s Score: 8.65 / 10

Ride: 9 Fit: 9 Value: 9 Style: 10 Traction: 7 Rock Protection: 8

Sam: The Ultraventure 3 is truly a hybrid all purpose shoe and on several levels. On moderate well groomed trails, pavement, and at hiking paces on most any terrain it shines brightest with few if any compromises and as a result could  be an excellent ultra choice for those types of courses.  

I also very much enjoyed it for hiking and could well see it being a near ideal walking shoe as well. 

On the road,  beyond some sense of the firm and a bit slappy Vibram outsole (which also in the mix with the energetic Zip Foam 2 delivers the pop and response) it is smooth and energetic with a really effective rocker plus flex geometry. On moderate well groomed trails it flies particularly on flatter section and uphills. 

The deliberate choice of a lower profile outsole with broad flat lugs clearly helps deliver the smooth ride but as things get more rugged and wet it may be a bit of a disadvantage but I will take the smoother terrain versatility here.

Given its broad toe box and rear secure upper, for sure a massive plus for those who need the room, and for me better executed than any current Altra, you will be in heaven. And that applies to those ultra swelling feet as well. All that wonderful front comfort becomes somewhat of a disadvantage on more technical trails taken at faster paces and I think could be “tightened up” a bit without compromising a broad enough fit.

The Ultraventure 3’s versatility (and overall comfort) make it a very solid value if your trails are mellow and your days long.

The “new” Topo exemplified here makes decisive moves away from “minimal” and firm underfoot to more stack height, more energetic foams and smooth flowing less flat feeling geometries while improving on their anatomical fit with yet more comfortable uppers. They went a touch too far here in the upper department towards the comfort side if used for more technical trail running but in the end that is OK if intended uses are away from fast and rocky.

Sam’s Score: 9.26 / 10

Ride: 9.4 Fit: 9.1 Value: 9.7  Style 9.7 Traction: 9 Rock Protection: 9

Smiles 😊😊😊😊

Jeff V:  The UV 3 is a hit for me and while not my first pick for my technical preferences, I love them for my longer, slower outings, recovery days, hikes and days where I just want to give my feet and legs a break.  I think the UV 3 would be an excellent choice for 100 milers or most all day adventures, given the terrain is not too steep, technical, or wet.  Door to trail versatility is excellent , as is all around comfort, and hard to beat.  If I had a colorway that was more discreet than the bright orange, I would wear the UV 3 as an everyday shoe or travel shoe as well.  I would highly recommend these for the reasons stated above.

Jeff’s Score: 9 / 10

Ride: 9.5 Fit: 9 Value: 9  Style: 8 Traction: 8 Rock Protection: 9

Smiles 😊😊😊😊

Alex: The Ultraventure 3 is not quite what I imagined when I longed for a trail runner version of the Trailventure, but it’s still pretty darn fun. It’s not going to replace the Trailventure mid height boot on hikes for me, in part because the high stack height and accommodating upper make technical trails feel a little unstable. But it honestly might replace my current long run shoe. The Zip Foam 2 feels great here, with the high stack means it’s super plush but the rocker and outsole adding a bit of pop to the ride. This shoe could go all day, and if I were planning a long hike or race on trails that were more buffed out than the rock gardens we get in the mid-Atlantic, I would be stoked to wear these shoes. If you love the wide toebox and have a long trail race coming up, the UV 3 should be near the top of your list: 

Score: 9:23 

Ride: 9.75, Fit: 9, Value: 9, Style: 9, Traction: 9, Rock Protection: 9


Mike P: This is a solid shoe for me - I have it scored slightly ahead of the Topo Pursuit. In comparison, the 5mm drop works better for me, and the next gen Zipfoam is a clear upgrade in the cushion, protection, and ride departments. But Topo definitely has two stout long distance trail options in their lineup - zero drop and standard 5mm. As mentioned earlier in my review - this shoe can easily handle 80% of my trail mileage on Western US trails. 

Value is great - it will be a rotation staple for me. Now that Topo has knocked it out of the park in the light to moderate terrain department - there should be less overlap with their trail models. I hope they go big with the next MOUNTAIN Racer!

Mike P’s Score:  9.3 / 10

Ride: 9.5 - A smooth riding mileage hog, with surprising technical range

Fit: 9 - Topo midfoot hold + Topo toebox + Injinji merino socks = pinnacle trail comfort

Value: 10 - Next gen Zipfoam will be more resilient - you will get your mileage out of these

Style: 9 - Understated, yet sleek

Traction: 9 - I’m not taking deductions here given that they work as specified

Rock Protection: 9.5 - 35/30mm should swallow up whatever you encounter

Smiles 😊😊😊😊

15 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Topo MTN Racer 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The UV3 is for sure more maximal, softer cushion and a bit more relaxed fit.  For very long days of running on less technical terrain and/or looking for more space, the UV 3 is the way to go.  For slightly less long days and certainly for more technical terrain and/or in the wet, the Mountain Racer 2 is for sure the better choice.

[Hard to tell, but UV3 absolutely dwarfs MTN Racer 2]

Mike P (9.5): Agree with Jeff V on all points. MTN Racer 2 has Topo’s more standard toebox, while UV3 toe box seems to have widened slightly and also more volume over the top. I was a bit disappointed with the MTN Racer 2’s protection level for real mountain running - it feels too thin under the forefoot for me for long days. Now that there’s less overlap between the Ultraventure and MTN Racer, perhaps the next MTN Racer will become more mountain oriented.

Topo Pursuit  (RTR Review)

[Similarly wide toeboxes]

Mike P (10.0): I recently reviewed the Topo Pursuit, and I find it to be sort of a zero drop alternative to the Ultraventure 3. There’s a few key differences. Zero drop obviously, but when I reviewed the Pursuit I felt like it was Topo’s highest cushion trail runner - Ultraventure 3 ups the ante and there’s noticeably even more cushion underfoot. Pursuit Zipfoam is the earlier, denser variety, but I think it works well at a slightly lower stack, with a better outsole, and more technical orientation. Both shoes feature a wider variety of Topo’s toebox. Topo has them marketed correctly - Pursuit is more of an all mountain, more technically capable shoe - if zero drop works for you. UV3 is more comfortable (cushion-wise) and feels smoother for all day light to moderate terrain.

[The visible foam outline is roughly indicative of the cushion difference - UV3 has a bit more]

Topo Ultraventure 2  (RTR Review)

Jeff B: After a slight refinement from the UV1 to the UV2, Topo started over from scratch for the UV3. The latest version has lots more cushioning (with a much softer feel) and a better fitting upper but definitely brings less traction than the previous model. Weight is about the same, and ultimately I prefer the latest version, but I tend to like lots of squish.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Jeff B on all points 100%.

[Version 3 absolutely dwarfs V1]

Mike P (10.0): I still have my V1 but never tried V2 - V3 is a completely different shoe. V1 has a slimmer fit, more overlays and is more secure and agile. UV3 has a noticeably wider toebox, and is a bit less secure, but only in steeper, technical terrain. Cushion difference is big, you feel much higher in V3, and increased cushion is especially noticeable under the forefoot. The firmer medial insert under the heel has also been removed in V3. I like this as it makes for a smoother ride and also softer downhill landings.

Altra Timp 4 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): Timp 4 is somewhat of a mix between the Pursuit and the UV3. It’s zero drop with a comparably spacious toebox. The Ego Max foam feels as responsive as the UV3’s newer Zipfoam, but the Ego Max feels denser and perhaps it’s heavier as the shoe overall is heavier. Timp 4’s traction is closer to that of the UV3 - shallow, flat lugs with not much bite to them. I prefer both of the Topo shoes over the Timp 4. Having all 3, I can’t think of a scenario where I’d choose the Timp over one of the Topos. 

Altra Olympus 5  (RTR Review)

Jeff B: The UV3 comes in $30 less and a full ounce lighter with a better upper and midsole. I lamented in the Olympus 5 review that Altra didn’t use their upgraded midsole material, EgoMax, and when worn against the Topo the Altra just feels dull and underwhelming. No question, if you want a large stacked foot shaped shoe, go with the Topo.

Brooks Caldera 6 (RTR Review)

[UV3 much narrower platform from midfoot through rear]

Mike P (9.5): Battle of the big stacks for sure - Caldera 6 is the only shoe that feels higher than the UV3 when standing with one foot in each shoe. Brooks’ Loft V3 tops the UV3 in bounciness as well as feeling very light. But there’s just so much of it, and the platform is so wide that the Caldera 6 comes in more than a half ounce heavier. I had a hard time running in the Caldera 6 - the extremely wide rear is just too cumbersome for me. I feel much more balanced and comfortable with Topo’s normal rear foot platform. Caldera’s upper is suitably wide for long days, but the UV3 has a more secure fit without having to crank down the laces as much as the Brooks. Clear win for the Ultraventure 3 - at least for me.

[Caldera 6 is the most massive trail shoe out right now - too massive for ]

Hoka Mafate Speed 4 (RTR Review)

[These feel the most equally stacked of all comps]

Mike P (9.5): This is a great shoe that’s a staple in my rotation - it feels about equally stacked as the Ultraventure 3. The MS4 is more flexible, the Profly foam feels a touch softer, and of course you get much deeper lugs and better traction. This is the shoe I would reach for when the terrain gets a bit too rough for the Ultraventure 3. It could even be a good light-moderate trail trainer as well, but I’d reserve it for the rougher days. Both shoes are 100M race options depending on terrain and preference. I love both shoes, and both together could cover 100% of my mid-long distance training miles.

Hoka Speedgoat 5 (RTR Review)

[Ugh, the SG5 toebox]

Mike P (9.5): The SG5 features an anti-Topo toebox. Narrow and tapered up front, you’ll have to try them on to see if they work for you. We’ve received very polarized feedback on the new v5. The Ultraventure 3 actually is higher stacked than the Speedgoat, and I even found the new Speedgoat to feel a bit thinner under the forefoot. The Speedgoat can handle steeper ups and downs better, as it really straps down your foot. It’s a bit lighter as well, so you could use it as a moderate trainer if it suits you. But if you’re really looking for as much cushion as possible - the UV3 has more. Clear win for the SG5 in the traction department as well. I prefer the Mafate Speed 4 over Speedgoat 5.

Saucony Xodus Ultra (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): The Xodus Ultra is really a do-it-all trail shoe, and more versatile than the Ultraventure 3. It can handle mid-long distances and easy-moderate-technical terrain well. If I had to pick a single shoe for a long trip, the Xodus Ultra would likely be it. 

The Ultraventure does have it beat in the cushion department though, so I do prefer the Ultraventure for the light-moderate end of the spectrum. The Xodus Ultra is more flexible which is great in variable terrain, but for just cruising, the mellow flex and smooth ride of the Ultraventure is easier on the legs. Xodus Ultra also has a pretty wide and spacious toebox, but its upper relies on lace tension to lock down as opposed to the well wrapping Topo upper.

Nike Pegasus Trail 4  (RTR Review)

Sam: The 10mm drop Pegasus vs 5mm here is clearly more traditional in geometry. It has a relatively soft and yet more energetic (than Zip Foam 2)  React midsole and a more aggressive outsole. Fit is overall more secure but as with many of the comparisons here not as toe box broad and comfortable as the UV3. Yet  at the same time, as with UV3, the Peg  does not have much front structure to hold the foot on more technical terrain as there is for all intents and purposes no toe bumper in the quite broad and low toe box. The Peg Trail 4 is equally at home on road or just about any trail and is shorter distances on trail focused than UV3  due to its relatively thin forefoot. 

Jeff V:  Sam sums up well.  I will add though that while the upper of the Peg 4 is less structured, I find that in part because of the traditional fit, I find them to be a bit more secure than the UV 3.  Otherwise a lot of overlap in use case, less technical, longer distances and both are top of the class in regards to all day fit and comfort.  I would give a slight edge to the UV 3 for wet traction however, as Nike still struggles with their rubber compounds.

Nike ZoomX Zegama Trail  (RTR Review)

Sam: The Zegama is higher stack 37/33 and considerably more protected at the forefoot as it has a segmented rock plate plus a thicker outsole.  Unlike the long flexing UV3, the Nike has a single far forward flex point with everything back of that rigid. It is more rear stable and densely cushioned, although the UV3 is for sure well cushioned and stable as well. The Zegama has a firmer flavor of Nike’s ZoomX which returns energy sharply and quickly whereas the UV3 cushion is more mellow, its longer flexing platform more mellow. The Nike upper is somewhat more supportive but not as pleasant on foot. Upfront, the toe box is broad but lower than the UV3’s and in the end is more supportive up front.  Both can be used door to trail with the Nike leaning more technical trail uses due to its superior upper hold and deeper more stable (almost too stable) platform. 

Jeff V:  Sam again sums up this comparison well.  Like the Peg 4, the Zegama has inferior wet traction, though the shape of the lugs gives the Zegama the advantage in dry/loose conditions.  While not an all mountain shoe, the Zegama is a bit better in more technical terrain with more protection, though I still find myself backing off the pace.

The Ultraventure 3 will be available late October- Early November 2022

Tester Profiles

Jeff Beck is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 20 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR's are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better.  He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 11 year old daughters to the outdoors.  Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years.  He is a little over 5’9” and ~145 lbs.

Alex Tilsley is a displaced trail runner, currently living in DC and finding dirt wherever she can. Alex discovered running in college and was a happy 3-miles-a-day hobby jogger until her mom tricked her into running a 10k and it was all downhill from there. She has since run several marathons (PR 3:38) and dabbled in triathlons, but her true love is the trails, whether running, mountain biking, orienteering, or long-distance backpacking. When she’s not running or riding, Alex works full-time in education policy and part-time putting on trail races with EX2 Adventures

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to nearly 100 mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. In 2022 Mike won both the Standhope 100M and IMTUF 100M trail ultras within a 7 week period - both extremely rugged Idaho mountain races. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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Terrence said...

Surprised there's no comparison to the Topo Pursuit - the other max-cushioned (but zero drop) Topo trail shoe. I think that comparison is interesting because not only the difference in drop/rocker vs 0-drop, but also differing stack heights, foams (? not sure if they both use ZipFoam 2), and outsoles

Jan said...

Yeah I would be interested in comparison with Pursuit and Xodus Ultra.

silverm said...

I was actually hoping to see how they compare to the new Mafate and the SG. Thanks!

Ioannis R. said...

I too was looking for a comparison to the Pursuit. I would think that would be one of the first comparisons, as it's Togo's other max offering.

I know Mike P. reviewed the Pursuit. And I remember from an instagram post of his that he also had this shoe, but he's not a reviewer. Maybe he will add his comments later in a update?

Sam Winebaum said...

@jan @Ioannis @silvern
We will have more comparisons soon.
Pursuit is for starters zero drop, has a more aggressive outsole and less stack at 28m vs 35/30 here.
I have run Speedgoat and clearly UV3 has a more generous toe area for sure, more flexibility but less cushion and not as deep tech terrain chops..
Xodus Ultra is quite similar but has a more streamlined toe box, better traction, and maybe not quite the mid foot hold
Sam, Editor

Mike P said...

I'm just completing my review today. I'll be adding comps for Pursuit, Xodus Ultra, Speedgoat 5, Mafate Speed 4 and Caldera 6.. should be up either today or early tomorrow!

Mike P said...

Pursuit comp is added now. There was some issue and Xodus Ultra will also be added shortly.

Terrence- Pursuit uses original Zipfoam, UV3 is the only Topo trail shoe so far with the newer version. I actually think the denser V1 Zipfoam works fine for the Pursuit as it's a more technically oriented shoe. The Pursuit was surprisingly capable in technical terrain for me - I was able to test in some pretty rocky stuff and it felt very stable. The UV3 is not really suited for that type of terrain (see pics from my Pursuit review)

Thomas said...

Hello RRT, thanks a lot for all your work, very usefull. Any comparison to Divide 3 as "road to trail" (toebox, foothold, flexibility and grip?)
Have a good run and thanks again

Mike P said...


Coincidentally I'm mostly caught up on my testing backlog so I actually took the Divide out for a 15M loop just yesterday. The Divide is a great shoe and I highly recommend for only $100. Awesome, solid and stable underfoot, trail trainer.

Compared to the UV3, there's much less cushion and the Divide's Loft V1 foam leans medium-firm. Zipfoam 3 feels more responsive, but UV3 has so much that the Divide's firmer ride feels quicker. That perhaps makes the Divide ride a bit more stable in moderate terrain, but your legs will take more impact (I actually like this for training purposes).

The Divide does have a nice and wide toebox, less than the UV3, but wider than most trail shoes. Foothold is about the same, I'd say you'd feel more difference from the stack height rather than the upper's hold. Grip is about the same - both have flattish low profile lugs. The Divide does grip well on wet rocks - I got to specifically test that with creek crossings yesterday.

I'd lean Divide for short-medium, and UV3 medium-long.

Mike P said...

Thomas- Just to clarify, I'd lean UV3 for "road to trail", especially if there's more road or hard surfaces involved. The Divide's medium-firm cushion feels great on trails, but on roads it's a harsher ride than the UV3's generous Zipfoam V2.

Anonymous said...

How's the heel fit? Unfortunately, the heel in the Pursuit just didn't work for me. No matter, how I tied the shoes, I had pretty severe heel slip. :(

Mike P said...

I haven't experienced any heel slip with either shoe. I believe I have an average sized heel and generally don't experience heel slip except sometimes with exceptionally stiff shoes. I also have both Pursuit and UV3 in a larger (for me "ultra"-sized) US 10. I could likely go with a 9.5 and thinner socks, but I have no heel slip in the larger 10s.

Perhaps the UV3 might have a better heel hold - if you look at the pictures from the side, you can see how the rear of the shoe is less vertical and quite angled forward. Also with a 5mm drop, perhaps less vertical heel movement?

Ante said...

Look forward to comparison of the Saucony Xodus Ultra.

Mike P said...

Somehow the Xodus Ultra comp got lost in the shuffle, here it is:

Mike P (10.0): The Xodus Ultra is really a do-it-all trail shoe, and more versatile than the Ultraventure 3. It can handle mid-long distances and easy-moderate-technical terrain well. If I had to pick a single shoe for a long trip, the Xodus Ultra would likely be it.

The Ultraventure does have it beat in the cushion department though, so I do prefer the Ultraventure for the light-moderate end of the spectrum. The Xodus Ultra is more flexible which is great in variable terrain, but for just cruising, the mellow flex and smooth ride of the Ultraventure is easier on the legs. Xodus Ultra also has a pretty wide and spacious toebox, but its upper relies on lace tension to lock down as opposed to the well wrapping Topo upper.

Ante said...

Thanks Mike for sharng!

Anonymous said...

One of the best, most thorough, reviews I've ever read! Thank you v much!